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Game Reviews, Embargoes, and a Reality Check

Kinda feel like the people who think that the right move is for reviewers to break embargo to warn people about a bad game have zero sense of how the real world works. Because here’s how that’d play out.

  • Outlet receives game, review can’t post until midnight on the day of release.
  • Game is awful.
  • Reviewer says “we have to do something” and posts two days early.
  • Outlet is potentially opened up for legal action.
  • Reviewer and outlet are probably cut off from access to pre-release review copies, first from the publisher in question, but potentially from many publishers if the policy is used multiple times.
  • Next game comes along.
  • Outlet has to buy review copy after it is released.
  • Outlet is not in a position to say anything at all at time of release because they have zero access to pre-release copies.
  • Problem still exists, only now you have to wait a few days for this reviewer to play and weigh in on the game.
  • Everyone loses.

The public wants timely reviews, every single traffic metric we’ve got says so. And, by my clock, having a review up as soon as a game is available is more useful than scrambling around and saying “hey, we’re heading out to a store to pick up a copy, we’ll have more to say once we’re done playing the game!” Is it a perfect situation? Obviously not. Publishers are increasingly trying to stack the deck so they can issue glowing “day one Metacritic average” press releases and other crap like that. They’re also LASER FOCUSED on pre-orders and getting that number up, which makes for another nice press release number that they can send out to investors and keep their stock price from tanking.

Want to solve the problem? Stop pre-ordering games so you can actually get some use out of the reviews as actual purchasing advice. Can’t speak for everyone in my line of work, but I’m constantly looking for ways to break out of the above system and still offer timely, comprehensive coverage. I’ll keep doing my part and looking for holes, you pledge to stop pre-ordering stuff that you’re not already 100% sold on, and together maybe we can start changing some things around here? Maybe?

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    still a really good and important post
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